Verse 7. Here omnipresence is the theme, -- a truth to which omniscience naturally leads up.
Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Not that the Psalmist wished to go from God, or to avoid the power of the divine life; but he asks this question to set forth the fact that no one can escape from the all pervading being and observation of the Great Invisible Spirit. Observe how the writer makes the matter personal to himself -- "Whither shall I go?" It were well if we all thus applied truth to our own cases. It were wise for each one to say -- The spirit of the Lord is ever around me: Jehovah is omnipresent to me.
Or whither spirit I flee from thy presence? If, full of dread, I hastened to escape from that nearness of God which had become my terror, which way could I turn? "Whither?" "Whither?" He repeats his cry. No answer comes back to him. The reply to his first "Whither?" is its echo, -- a second "Whither?" From the sight of God he cannot be hidden, but that is not all, -- from the immediate, actual, constant presence of God he cannot be withdrawn. We must be, whether we will it or not, as near to God as our soul is to our body. This makes it dreadful work to sin; for we offend the Almighty to his face, and commit acts of treason at the very foot of his throne. Go from him, or flee from him we cannot: neither by patient travel nor by hasty flight can we withdraw from the all surrounding Deity. His mind is in our mind; himself within ourselves. His spirit is over our spirit; our presence is ever in his presence.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 7. Wither shall I go from thy spirit? By the "spirit of God" we are not here, as in several other parts of Scripture, to conceive of his power merely, but his understanding and knowledge. In man the spirit is the seat of intelligence, and so it is here in reference to God, as is plain from the second part of the sentence, where by "the face of God" is meant his knowledge or inspection. --John Calvin.
Verse 7. Whither shall I go from thy spirit? That is, either from thee, who art a spirit, and so canst pierce and penetrate me; be as truly and essentially in the very bowels and marrow of my soul, as my soul is intimately and essentially in my body: "from thy spirit"; that is, from thy knowledge and thy power; thy knowledge to detect and observe me, thy power to uphold or crush me. --Ezekiel Hopkins, 1633-1690.
Verse 7. We may elude the vigilance of a human enemy and place ourselves beyond his reach. God fills all space -- there is not a spot in which his piercing eye is not on us, and his uplifted hand cannot find us out. Man must strike soon if he would strike at all; for opportunities pass away from him, and his victim may escape his vengeance by death. There is no passing of opportunity with God, and it is this which makes his long suffering a solemn thing. God can wait, for he has a whole eternity before him in which he may strike. "All things are open and naked to him with whom we have to do." -- Frederick William Robertson, 1816-1853.
Verse 7. Whither shall I go, etc. A heathen philosopher once asked, "Where is God?" The Christian answered, "Let me first ask you, Where is he not?" --John Arrowsmith, 1602-1659.
Verse 7. Whither shall I flee from thy presence? That exile would be strange that could separate us from God. I speak not of those poor and common comforts, that in all lands and coasts it is his sun that shines, his elements of earth or water that bear us, his air we breathe; but of that special privilege, that his gracious presence is ever with us; that no sea is so broad as to divide us from his favour; that wheresoever we feed, he is our host; wheresoever we rest, the wings of his blessed providence are stretched over us. Let my soul be sure of this, though the whole world be traitors to me. --Thomas Adams.
Verse 7. Whither shall I flee? etc. Surely no whither: they that attempt it, do but as the fish which swimmeth to the length of the line, with a hook in the mouth. --John Trapp.
Verse 7. Thy presence. The presence of God's glory is in heaven; the presence of his power on earth; the presence of his justice in hell; and the presence of his grace with his people. If he deny us his powerful presence, we fall into nothing; if he deny us his gracious presence, we fall into sin; if he deny us his merciful presence, we fall into hell. -- John Mason.
Verse 7. Thy presence. The celebrated Linnaeus testified in his conversation, writings, and actions, the greatest sense of God's presence. So strongly indeed was he impressed with the idea, that he wrote over the door of his library: "Innocue vivite, Numen adest -- Live innocently: God is present." --George Seaton Bowes, in "Information and Illustration," 1884.
Verse 7-11. You will never be neglected by the Deity, though you were so small as to sink into the depths of the earth, or so lofty as to fly up to heaven; but you will suffer from the gods the punishment due to you, whether you abide here, or depart to Hades, or are carried to a place still more wild than these. --Plato.
Verse 7-12. The Psalm was not written by a Pantheist. The Psalmist speaks of God as a Person everywhere present in creation, yet distinct from creation. In these verses he says, "Thy spirit ... thy presence ... thou art there ... thy hand ... thy right hand ... darkness hideth not from thee." God is everywhere, but he is not everything. --William Jones, in "A Homiletic Commentary on the Book of Psalms", 1879.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
- God is wherever I am. I fill but a small part of space; he fills all space.
- He is wherever I shall be. He does not move with me, but I move in him. "In him we live, and move", etc.
- God is wherever I could be. "If I ascend to heaven", etc. "If I descend to Sheol", etc. If I travel with the sunbeams to the most distant part of the earth, or heavens, or the sea, I shall be in thy hand. No mention is here made of annihilation, as though that were possible; which would be the only escape from the Divine Presence; for he is not the God of the dead, of the annihilated, in the Sadducean meaning of the word, but of the living. Man is always somewhere, and God is always everywhere.